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Judge slams BT for blaming engineer after 7 metre ceiling plunge

Half a million fine, stung for £98k in costs

By Drew Cullen

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BT has been fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £98,913.51 after one of its engineers broke both ankles after falling seven metres from a loft onto a concrete stairwell.

David Spurgeon was fixing a telephone fault in the roof void of a block of flats in Bow, east London, when he lost his balance and plunged through the ceiling.

"He managed to hold himself suspended for several minutes before his arms gave out, but was unable to call for help at the flat in Tay House on St Stephen's Road," news agency Court News UK reported at the time.

The Old Bailey heard that Spurgeon also suffered serious back injuries. He was allowed to retire on medical grounds in 2013, about two years after the accident.

In his sentencing remarks Judge John Bevan QC rebuked BT for trying to blame Spurgeon for the incident, CourtNews UK reported.

He said: "Mr Spurgeon and other colleagues were accused of being unreliable and milking his condition for the court’s benefit to do as much damage as possible to BT. This attack on the employees and the victim were in my judgement and clearly the jury’s judgement not necessary, misplaced and unfortunate. The company tried to avoid responsibility in an unfortunate way."

In a statement following the verdict, Health and Safety Executive inspector Kevin Smith said: “David Spurgeon is lucky to be alive. “There were a number of failures of health and safety management by BT which related to planning the work, supervision, and checking it was being carried out safely. Work at height needs to be properly planned, and this incident could have been prevented.” ®

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